Why do girls dress like that?

Carolyn Moynihan
22 Mar 2011
Reproduced with Permission

Like what? Like prostitutes, says American mother and writer Jennifer Moses in a frank article in the Wall Street Journal -- a paper, by the way, which seems to enjoy challenging US parents.

Jennifer Moses is not the first one to talk about the way young girls tart themselves up but she might be the first I've read in a major newspaper to acknowledge that it's the moms' and dads' fault. After all, who pays for "the plunging necklines...push-up bras, spangles, feathers, slits and peek-a-boos" that 12- and 13-year-olds are wearing to parties? We do, she says.

But why? Her friend says it's about mother-daughter bonding. "It starts with the mommy-daughter manicure and goes on from there." But Moses has a more courageous answer.

I have a different theory. It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, "If I could do it again, I wouldn't even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?"

It was the pill that did it, created the opportunity and the peer pressure "to find out true womanhood in the bedroom". But it wasn't "true" and it led to regret.

So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We're embarrassed, and we don't want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.

Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don't know one of them who doesn't have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she'd "experimented" more.

Their daughters don't get it. They want to be popular. And even Moses wants hers to look gorgeous.

But it's easy for parents to slip into denial. We wouldn't dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: "Study hard and floss every night, honey - and for heaven's sake, get laid!" But that's essentially what we're saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they're still living under our own roofs.

Gee, these moms have to develop more nerve. They have to tell their daughters with conviction about their regrets and how you really can wait for marriage. Maybe among the 7029 comments the article has garnered as of now (yes, over 7000!) there are people saying that.

Anyway, well done, Jennifer Moses.